Thursday, 26 May 2016

And Now For Something Completely Different

Over the years I have collected the occasional piece of pottery that interested me. Here are a few of those that remain in my collection.

Pot, 17cm, by Vee Harper, Guildfod Village Potters, Perth, Western Australia.
Possibly my favourite piece for a number of reasons:
It is beautifully simple in form and yet the outcome is wonderfully complex in colour and texture
and, for me, it represents so much of 'the colour of Australia'.

Handmade stoneware figure, 19cm, by Natàlia Ferré, Forès, Spain

Handmade stoneware teapot, 30cm, of Margaret Thatcher as Britannia in the style of Gerald Scarfe by Sue Blair of Borve Pottery on the Isle of Lewis
One of my most valued (and probably valuable) pieces which I fell in love with the second I saw it in an exhibition back in the day and had to have despite, at the time, being unable to afford it.

Made by a member of the Napier Pottery Club, 16 cm, and bought in a shop in Napier, New Zealand.
It is probably the least expensive piece I've ever bought (a perfect example of someone undervaluing their worth) and yet one of the most expressive of pieces.

Golden Eagle, 21cm, modelled by Tom Mackie of Aviemore and produced by Scotia Ceramics at Coll Pottery on the Isle of Lewis

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Protection from The Public

I returned to The While House today. Actually it's now a rather dirty grey.  The White House was never its official title but it was the mockingly sarcastic title given to it when it was built back in the late 70s. I don't think anyone calls it that now but when it was built it was a massive structure. Now some of the private houses being built on the Island are almost as big. To what am I referring? The offices of Comhairle na Eilean Siar (The Western Isles Islands Council).

A neighbour, who is also a local Councillor, gave me a lift into town when she attended a meeting and I agreed to meet her at the Council's Offices after I'd done what I had to do. When I arrived I was met by a former colleague who was on the reception desk and presented with a visitor pass and accompanied to the Members' Lounge to await my lift home.

It was, as it happens, a very enjoyable visit because I met a number of people whom I knew and was able to keep them from their duties for a while to reminisce and catch up whilst I was given coffee.

What really struck me, though, was the security. I had to be accompanied if I wanted to move from one room to another because doors are controlled by swipe passes.

When the building was opened one of the rules laid down by the then Chief Executive (an Islander of exceptional ability and a lawyer) was that it didn't matter how senior someone was they were there to serve the public and the public had access to them. There was a certain irony in that if one had a lot of staff and responsibilities then one might well not be the best person to answer everyday operational questions. In practice that meant that unless one had a 'Do not disturb' or 'Meeting in progress' notice on one's office door anyone had relatively free access.

Now not even all staff have access to all areas.

Why? Well on balance the chances of a physical attack is almost non-existent here on Lewis. However the likelihood of someone (be they an employee or member of the public) having access to private information is very real. Now that the protection of everyone's privacy is absolutely paramount the slightest leak could be a matter for the national press to slate the Council for its laxity and enable the person to sue for large sums of money.

It's a sign of the times but I have to say it's a cause of some sadness to those of us who worked in less fraught times.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Blogger: What are you up to?

I woke up this morning to see various comments in my mail about a post entitled 'Calmac Survic'.  Yesterday I decided to do a post on the subject of Calmac's survival but, as I already had a post scheduled for this morning, I decided to do it today instead. However the heading (and possibly some post text) apparently did not stay in my draft and found their way onto the blog and onto Facebook. Very puzzled I checked the Dashboard and discovered that the post is, indeed still a draft.

What is really strange, however, is that I can't see the post on my blog either in draft or any other form and it's not on my Facebook page either.

It shows on the Dashboard as a draft post but when I try and open it there is no text at all.

So I shall try and do a post today and let you know what I did want to say.

The Blackhouse by Peter May

Arising from a comment by Carol on yesterday's post the following is the text of a post on A Hebridean in New Zealand on 11 December 2012.
I really should resurrect my book blog because last night I finished Peter May's book The Blackhouse.  I can think of no book I have read for many years that kept me so riveted to it: particularly towards the end when I couldn't put the light out until I'd finished it.  It's complex (though not really complicated)  and, in parts, implausible (are not most novels?) but the characters and places are so real it's uncanny. 
Having lived the majority of my years on Lewis makes it all the more poignant and I can see many of the characters in people I know or am acquainted with.  Contrary to at least one reviewer I do not think it is insulting in any way to the people of what has long been my home.  Every place has it's characters both good and bad and Lewis is no different.  Some of the less central characters who are there for the embellishment of the story though not from Ness are immediately recognisable (sometimes as an amalgamation of real people).
The descriptions of the Island and the places (I'm fortunate enough through my work, for example, to have been all over the Lews Castle before it was declared dangerous and closed to the public) are wonderfully evocative of the place and reading the book here in New Zealand I was transported back to Lewis: almost like being beamed there à la Star Trek.
Oh yes, the story.  Police officer, unpleasant senior police officer, friendly and loyal police officer colleague, murder, deaths and so much more (some of which would sow ideas which could give the stories - this is not one story - away).  Frankly you don't need to have a synopsis: it seems to me in many ways that the murder is just a way of having a setting on which to hang (sorry) the characters who are really what I think the novel is all about.
I would stick my neck out and say that I think that anyone I know who reads this book will enjoy it at one level or another.  
I bought it on Kindle (as I will now do the others in the trilogy) but when I return to Lewis I will have to have the real copies as well. 
I subsequently read the other books in the trilogy and I would thoroughly recommend them too.
I have yet to read the other books that I have by him but I'm sure that when I do I will not be disappointed.